We’re closing out the first-ever Kung Fu-bruary with one last ultraviolent kick to the jaw. Since absolutely NO ONE (except you 50 or so devoted people) wanted to read about a near kid-friendly kung-fu comedy alliance flick, I shan’t make that mistake again. I mean, the last time there was so much disinterest in a review, it was a slasher flick shot for $25 in some guy’s apartment closet on VHS in central Kentucky. Or maybe it’s just that it got posted on a Saturday afternoon and everybody’s got more important things to do.
This last flick is BKO: Bangkok Knockout and it goes back to the more physical and brutal exhibition of Thai-style kung fu that I mentioned in the Triple Threat review, where this stuff really looks like it HURTS, like Ultimate Fighter grind-your-face-into-a-chain-link-fence-and-have-one-of-the-metal-weaves-gash-your-cheek-open hurts.
The 2010 flick’s writer/director is Panna Rittikrai, who made a name for himself with his martial arts flick debut Born to Kill (Gerd Ma Lui) in 1978 and later on did two of the well-known Ong-Bak series of flicks as well as The Bodyguard (the one starring Tony Jaa, not Kevin Costner) before his death in 2014.
The flick starts out promisingly with a bunch of folks being wheeled into the ICU with messed-up limbs, spikes piercing their forearms, splinted fractures and bleeding all over the place. We don’t know if this is a flashback or a flash forward to the end, but we do know that there are a lot of folks who’re going to need traction and we’re gonna see how they got that way.
Pod (Chatchapol Kulsiriwuthichai) is the quiet good boy who is the leader of one of two teams who made it to the finals of a competition that started with 50 teams. He has a crush on Joy (Supakson Chaimongkol) and might get lucky, since his team was triumphant and now has an opportunity to “go Hollywood,” according to Dr. Duschanon, the College of Arts and Sciences professor who turns out a few scenes later to be in an unholy and evil alliance with a head caterer.
There’s an extended party scene and a violinist who kind of has his hair styled like James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian except with Moe Howard bangs and Elton John sunglasses shows up on a scooter as alleged comic relief. Everybody wakes up after their party and their phones and cars are all stolen and they might have been drugged. Turns out in retrospect that they disrespected the catering staff a little too much, knocking em into tables full of food and not tipping em.
Joy gets abducted by a couple of guys in ninja costumes, but then she does some judo throws on them and almost escapes before the head ninja kicks her in the solar plexus. She gets taken away and the evil Dr. Duschanon reveals that he and the head caterer will shoot anyone who tries to escape, so Team Fight Club has to fight for survival and the experience will determine “whether they are true friends” to boot.
It takes about 35 minutes to get through the narrative slog and some Miami Connection-level acting for this flick to truly enter Kung Fu City, but once this guy Ed gets in a cage fight with a guy in a black beanie who does animal-style combat and then Ao fights this catering guy who’s wearing black garters, pink lingerie and a cup, things pick up.
Best Dismissal of the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke: The stogie-sucking Mr. Snead (Speedy Arnold) tells Fern, who told him not to smoke in the building: “Little girl, I smoke everywhere,” and informs her that Thai law doesn’t apply to him.
Best WWE Impersonation: Pod and the leader of the competing group have to climb up to get the coin hanging many feet up in a suspended container. After falling from a scaffold, the leader of the opponents has the box, while Pod has the actual prize.
Best Surprise: This black “Mad Max”-looking armored foreign car rams through some foam walls and runs a few of the “Fight Club” kids over.
Best Jason Voorhees/Lord Humongous knockoff: Some goofball with an axe and a steel mask shows up, but he’s kind of skinny and in a hoodie, so he’s really not all that. But the guys he was fighting ran away. You decide.
Best Appearing Act: Three ninjas somehow multiply to become seven ninjas and they kick all of the kids from the “Fight Club” into this gap in the floor.
Best Unholy Alliance of Immeasurable Evil, Yet Full of Contradictions: The sinister college professor who knows kung fu and the malevolent chief caterer who uses an inhaler and says, “This is my game. A game without guns. You have to save your friend and save your own life. Anyone who tries to get out will be shot to death … And don’t forget to smile for the camera. Smile!”
Best Precursor to the Wild West of Online Sports Gambling: Mr. Snead establishes the wagering system — “If you bet both of them to win, $20,000 will win you $80,000. If you bet one of them to win, $20,000 will win you $30,000. If you bet against them, you have to put up $50,000 to win $10,000.” There’s a reason this guy flamed out at Caesars Palace and ended up in Thailand trying to scam four other people.
If you make it through the annoying parts, the final fight starting at an hour-twenty in and then the subsequent 15-20 minutes are some great action sequences which bring it up to three stars.
Check it out!
Next up: We leave Kung Fu City for something else.